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Why India is silent on US interference in Bangladesh

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There have been several reports in the domestic and foreign media that India has sent a clear diplomatic message criticizing the role of the United States (US) ahead of the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh.
However, none of these reports directly quoted any Indian government source. Hence, some people are claiming that they are “fabricated news”.
Even Bangladesh’s main opposition party BNP has a similar stance.
However, the reality is that India has very clearly conveyed its objections to the visa policy that the US imposed on Bangladesh.
These issues have been raised both in writing on the diplomatic channel and verbally in discussions between the two countries’ top officials. However, India has not issued any official statement in this regard due to diplomatic obligations.
Explaining the issue, a senior official of Delhi’s South Block said: “There is no reason to think that we will not do anything, where India’s strategic interests are directly involved. But if we directly and publicly address the matter, it could be viewed as if India was interfering in the internal politics of Bangladesh or trying to unnecessarily interfere in the visa policy of a third country.”

To avoid that unwanted controversy or criticism, India has decided to remain silent on the issue, at least publicly, they said.
Several Bangladesh observers, former diplomats, and experts close to the ruling party in New Delhi said that they were 100% certain that India had made its objections clear to the US.
Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, former high commissioner of India in Dhaka, said: “The US uses the issue of democracy or human rights as a political or diplomatic tool, but it is nothing new. When I was in the service, even in the 1990s, I saw how they wanted to achieve their interests on the nuclear issue by pressuring India about human rights.
“However, their plan was not successful. But now they want to apply the same old trick for Bangladesh, I think. They certainly have some other motive behind it, though it’s not very clear.”
Chakravarty added that the relationship between India and the US has changed in the past one or two decades, and they hold regular Indo-US dialogues.
“India must have told the US, not to pressure Bangladesh too much – as it will not benefit anyone. It might even hamper the regional peace and stability,” he added.
Under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has been moving forward in the last decade and a half in a liberal and secular polity. “My reading is that this is exactly what we told Washington.”
Sreeradha Datta
Sreeradha Datta, Bangladesh researcher, Jindal School of International Affairs, said: “Look, I have no doubt that India is playing a ‘China card’ here. I mean, India wants to send America a clear message, which is the more you want to corner the government in Bangladesh in the name of democracy, the more they will be forced to turn to China.”
She added that a similar incident had already happened in Myanmar. “Yet America has not learned any lessons from it.”
The query that might come up is why India if it has expressed its opposition to the US, is not making a public declaration about it, Datta added.
“The answer is that this cannot be done with an independent sovereign and more than fifty-year-old state! Bangladesh will not like it either. On the contrary, if India makes a statement about it, it will convey that ‘Bangladesh has nothing to worry about, India is dealing with this with America!’ And so Delhi’s silence is also understandable,” she explained.
Dr Suvrokamal Dutta, foreign policy expert, said there is a significant indication that India is countering the US stance on the Bangladesh issue. This is evident from the fact that the US’ eagerness regarding the Bangladesh elections has decreased.
“My sources say that India is slowly able to convince the US administration that unwarranted interference in Bangladesh is a loss to everyone. Even the language used by the US ambassador in Dhaka has taken on a more gentle tone,” he said.
“And why shouldn’t India talk about it? Our past experience shows that whenever the BNP or its allianceJamaat-e-Islami came to power in Bangladesh, bilateral relations have been disrupted, fundamentalist forces emerged, and Hindus suffered – and the effects of that instability have also reached India,” he said.
So there is nothing wrong in warning America in advance about this. “As far as I know, That’s exactly what India is doing – and doing it with 100% diplomatic prudence.”
The US visa policy
US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken on May announced a new visa policy for Bangladeshi individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process.

The individuals who fall under this policy include current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of pro-government and opposition political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services, Blinken said in a statement.

In a Tweet, he added that the visa restrictions would apply to the immediate family members of such persons.

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The policy was declared under Section 212(a)(3)(C) (“3C”) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.

The actions to be treated as a disqualification for a US visa include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views.

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Vast majority of Bangladeshis want good relations with neighbours: FM tells South Asia Correspondents

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Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud has said the vast majority of the people of Bangladesh now understand that it should have good relations with neighbours – for its own prosperity as well as that of the region.

He said his party (Bangladesh Awami League) is painted as a ‘pro-Indian’ party but AL is a pro-Bangladeshi party.

“There are anti-Indian elements. We specifically see this issue during elections. But the anti-Indian sentiment is gradually diminishing in Bangladesh,” he told the members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia during an interaction in New Delhi on February 9.

The Foreign Minister said the tablet or capsule of blaming Awami League as a pro-India party does not work anymore like the past.

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“Today, the vast majority of the people understand that for the prosperity of Bangladesh and the region, neighbours should have good relations,” he said while responding to a question.

Asked about balancing relations, the Foreign Minister said Bangladesh-India relationship is not comparable to any other relations.

“Bangladesh’s relations with India are bonded by blood and shared sacrifice during the War of Liberation in 1971,” Hasan said.

He said although China is not Bangladesh’s immediate neighbor but it is a neighbor and a development partner of Bangladesh.

The Foreign Minister said they face a lot of challenges due to the wave of fake news. He said this is a problem even in Europe and shared how fake news was spread during Covid-19.

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He mentioned that this is an area where all need to work together. “We can work together to fight against fake news.”

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Last national election was open for all AL members for sake of democracy: PM Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday (9 Februay) said if she did not allow her party members to take part in last month’s election as independent candidates the democracy of the country would have been snatched away.

“If the election was not open for all (AL members), then not only the election would have been stained, the democracy of the country would have been hijacked too,” she said.

The prime minister was delivering her introductory speech at the extended meeting of Awami League at her official residence Ganabhaban.

This election was important to maintain the country’s status as a developing country, she said.

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“We should not forget the election manifesto that we announced before the election to retain this achievement. Every year during the budget formulation we follow the election manifesto,” she said.

Hasina, also the chief of ruling Awami League, said that her party has also opened the upcoming upazila elections for all her party members to make it participatory.

“It will also be scrutinised how much work has been done for the common people in the last 15 years while in power, and who could not deliver. Through it we will see who is accepted by the people,” she said.

She issued warning against any sort of confrontation in the upcoming local government elections.

“We do not want any kind of confrontation. Stern actions will be taken against the individuals responsible for it no matter who they are,” she said.

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Claiming that the 12th parliamentary election was free, fair and impartial, Hasina said that those who want to dispute the election, they must give clear evidence.

She said that elections have been held in many developed countries of the world, but these are yet to be accepted by their opponents.

“Even the post-election violence has resulted in murders. But the election in Bangladesh was very fair. Public administration, the armed forces, law and order enforcement and all those involved in the election have performed their duties impartially,” she claimed

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Political crisis nearing climax: Rizvi

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The BNP today said the country’s long-standing political crisis is now nearing its climax as people are taking to the streets risking their lives to resist a one-sided election.

“The chief election commissioner surrendered to Sheikh Hasina instead of protecting the interests of the people and taking proper steps to ensure a free, fair, and participatory election,” Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the party, said in a virtual press conference.

The BNP leader alleged that the EC announced the schedule for the next election ignoring the continuous movement for free and fair elections.

Rizvi also alleged that the commission announced the election schedule on the instruction of the government, ignoring the appeals of the country’s civil society, the international community, and foreign diplomats.

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“When the CEC announced the schedule, he should have also mentioned the time of voting, whether it will be at night, or during the daytime, or early morning.”

The BNP leader said the government has established a regime where those who demand free and fair elections are being attacked.

He said their ongoing movement to restore the power and rights of the people will be a warning for all the autocrats.

Rizvi said the BNP leaders and activists are being arrested indiscriminately. “If they [law enforcers] can’t detain them, they are arresting their fathers, fathers-in-law, younger brothers, and even women in the house.”

He said law enforcers arrested more than 12,900 leaders and activists in 289 cases across the country since October 28.

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